9 FOR THE OILERS

The Oilers prospect pool is finally underway (save for John McCarron) for this season and there are some outstanding performances around the globe. Some of these players could be in the NHL by spring.

THE GREAT

The conversation starts with the amazing Greg Chase (11, 10-7-17) who sits just outside the WHL’s top 10 in scoring early in the year. The agitating center has been an offensive factor in almost every game and has vaulted up the Oilers prospect list. His style fits a team need, and the fact that he plays center is another positive. He’s a couple of years away. Just behind him in the WHL scoring race is 19-year old Mitchell Moroz (12, 11-5-16) who sits in 4th place in goals scored in the dub. The selection of Moroz was much maligned on draft day, mostly because it represented another potential "Coke Machine" draft–Oilers have spent a lot of draft gold in search of a powerforward without a lot of success since 2000–but Moroz has established this season that he can in fact cash when playing with skill. My guess is that he ends up being a physical winger who plays on the 3 or 4line if and when he arrives in the NHL, but this season is extremely encouraging. Mitchell Moroz is going to post a very big number in his final junior season.

Darnell Nurse (9, 1-8-9) is among the OHL’s top scoring defensemen, but that’s not even half of what he brings to the game. The big, tough, physical, mobile, intelligent 2-way defender is having an impact year as captain of the Soo Greyhounds. Remember when we spoke in the summer about Nurse adding PP time to his resume, and how that would improve his boxcars? Well, he’s already at a point-per-game and as expected the 5×4 time (9, 1-4-5) is a big part of his season.

Dillon Simpson (4, 0-1-1) appears to be on his way to an outstanding future for the  Edmonton Oilers, and has travelled many miles as a player since his draft day. When he was selected, there were questions about Simpson as a prospect, mostly around strength and footspeed. Simpson has worked very hard on his weaknesses in the years since he was draft (2011, 4th round) and has passed many players taken ahead of him because of it. His footspeed, mobility and strength are no longer a question, and as captain of UND this season he’s taken on a leadership role. Coach Dave Hakstol: "He’s only 20 years old, we have freshmen older than him. But it’s really not about the date on your birth certificate, it’s about your level of maturity and your life experiences, your mindset and your ability to be consistent and accountable and do things the right way. I think Dillon is at the highest level of those areas." I believe Simpson is going to pass a lot of defensemen on the Oiler depth chart as soon as he turns pro, and wouldn’t be surprised to see him push for NHL employment in the months after turning pro.

Jujhar Khaira (8, 3-2-5) plays for a button down WHL coach (Kevin Contstantine) and in a defensive system, but has shown well across the board so far this season. He’s been impacted this weekend by injury, but has been observed playing well in a 2-way role and provided a physical presence. Khaira’s a big center (6.04, 215, just turned 19) and would fit a need for the Oilers if he continues to develop as a center.

Bogdan Yakimov (16, 2-4-6) is making the huge step up to KHL play this year and doing very well. He has played some center and spent time on the 2line, but appears to be getting 3line minutes for Neftekhimik this season. At 6.05, 202, he’s another giant on the way–and it’s important to remember he’s in what is generally described as being the second best league on the planet at age 19.

Tyler Pitlick (7, 1-2-3) has struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness since turning pro in the fall of 2011. This fall, he’s followed up a strong training camp with the big club by making himself a big part of the Barons. Pitlick has played center, scored a shorthanded goal and most recently (this weekend) has been running wild on the top Barons line (with Linus Omark and Anton Lander) posting some crooked numbers on the scoreboard. For really the first time since turning pro, Pitlick is a legit callup option (as described by Jonathan Willis in this article).

Anton Lander (6, 2-3-5) has plenty of NHL experience but there’s little doubt he was rushed to the show early. Lander’s play in OKC since last spring (in his last 22 AHL games, Lander is 13-10-23) has been impressive, and despite being sent down from main camp at a time when centermen were in short supply the next recall will be well earned. That’s an important distinction.

Oscar Klefbom (6, 0-1-1) is finding his way and gaining confidence at the AHL level now, and despite the fact Edmonton has a lot of one-way deals in front of him it’s a good guess the Swede will make his NHL debut sometime this season. His main assets are exceptional speed, intelligent movement of the puck and reading plays–all of which will be welcome when he arrives in the NHL.

(Klefbom photo by Rob Ferguson, Chase photo by Lisa McRitche. All rights reserved).

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

The Stu MacGregor draft era (2008 and counting) has taken a lot of heat for not delivering on picks beyond #1 overall selections (Jordan Eberle gets forgotten about during the discussion). However, there’s a long and impressive list of players who look like they’re on their way. 2009 (Lander), 2010 (Pitlick, Marincin) and 2011 (Klefbom, Musil, Simpson, Gernat) have some nice arrows and at some point will break through.

The question: does it happen for any of them this season?

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    Thanks for the update LT…keep them coming please…….what about the forwards Roy and Daniel Zharkov?

    …..oh yeah…….coach Eakins called….said she’s a nice lookin prospect….but the pie has to go!

  • pkam

    Greg Chase is one of the Hitmen I hated when the OilKings play the Hitmen. And I believe Moroz is the OilKings that other fans hate most.

    Both of them are like Perron, always stir it up after the whistle. Moroz may not have the skill, but he is very smart in front of the net. Always find the open space and the rebound. If you put him with a good passer and a good shooter, he will get to the net to finish it. And the bonus, he is not hesitate to drop the gloves.

  • Nuge&Connorvs.Sam&Sean

    @ Lowetide:

    When you look at this prospect pool, do you get the feeling the Oilers current NHL core will look very little like what it looks now in the next 2-3 years?

    I mean, they only have Smid and Ference signed for next year. Same goes for a few of the forwards. Looks like roster turnover will again be quite high for 14-15.

    Having said that, do you envision a future where the Oilers are finally good without at least two of the wonder-kids?

    • Lowetide

      I think the Oilers have three blue chip D prospects (Nurse, Klefbom, Marincin) and a couple of very good ones pushing them (Gernat, Simpson).

      They won’t all play for the Oilers. We’ll probably see Klefbom play 20-30 games this season, then (imo) Nurse and Marincin next fall. Defensemen take forever even after playing in the NHL, so my guess is three of the 5 mentioned above have Oiler careers and the other two get traded.

      As for the current roster, Justin Schultz, Andrew Ference, Jeff Petry, Ladislav Smid are the heart of the blue imo.

      So those names plus the 5 prospects(along with possibly Belov, who has been impressive) are the future.

      • Randaman

        I would agree except for Smid, I feel he will be the odd man out of the top six when the dust settles. He’s looking slower than usual and seems to be on the wrong side of the puck. His lack of skating ability and stupid penalties are hurting the team. Trade bait at the deadline if you ask me.

      • pkam

        So you consider Nurse, Klefbom, Marincin, Gernat, Simpson, but not Larsen, Fedun, Davidson and Musil?

        Musil may be a long shot, but the other 3 all look very good in the preseason, not any worse than Marincin and Gernat. And we haven’t seen much of Klefbom and not even have a chance to see Simpson plays yet.

        I can understand all the hype about Klefbom, but how can Simpson already get ahead of Fedun, Larsen, and Davidson?

      • Lowetide

        I’m still hoping for Musil as well. I wish he could become a Green, Scudari type. I think Fedun is going to get a shot some time this year. He shoulda been a call-up long before Grebeshkov.

        The Oilers need to get some of these players into some games, so they can parlay them into a goalie.

      • Lowetide

        Belov and Gordon have met my expectations so far. Ferrence hasn’t been the same player I saw in Boston. I remember him being much more physical, and dirty. Then again, I really only watched them in the playoffs.

          • pkam

            Do you think we’ll resign Ference when his contract expires at the end of 16-17? Or you are referring to the near future only?

            I don’t think the Oilers will resign Smid. At 3.5M, his spot and salary is better spent on a young prospect.

          • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

            Plus, if there’s one thing that this painful rebuild has taught us, it is that you can’t succeed with a team full of rookies / young players no matter how talented they are……..you need a solid core of veterans.

  • Lowetide

    I forgot to mention an item on Nurse, and that was the worry over Nichushkin. The Russian is struggling in Dallas, while Nurse is beating down the OHL. This is a marathon and not a sprint.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    Greg Chase looks like a Detroit-level gem, here’s hoping he can continue to tear it up. He’s looking more and more like the exact kind of player the Oil need.

    Nurse is a beauty, I can’t wait to see his boxcars at the end of the year.

    If Khaira pans out, teams are going to hate playing the Oilers. Finally!